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Games to Watch - Week 1
Editor's Note: Christian Alexander is already locked and loaded with winners for Week 1 for Thursday and Saturday! Also, don't forget to win all season long in his discounted Season Package!
Thursday - South Carolina at Vanderbilt (ESPN, 7:00 p.m. ET)
Matchup Skinny
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Until last season, if you were born in the nineties you were probably unaware that there was actually a time South Carolina didn't play on Thursday nights on ESPN to open its season. Well, The "Ole' Ball Coach" and South Carolina are back where they belong opening the college football season on the Thursday night ESPN game. The million dollar question for South Carolina fans is the recovery of running back Marcus Lattimore's knee, not only for this game but for the season. To expect him to be at full strength only nine months after such a severe injury is a little unrealistic, but this is the SEC and no one there cares about realistic scenarios. South Carolina also lost some key play-makers on both sides of the ball including 15-year QB Stephen Garcia. Throw a new defensive coordinator in the mix and there are a lot of questions to answer for South Carolina. South Carolina's talent is simply far superior to Vanderbilt. However, under head coach James Franklin, Vandy made the school's fifth bowl game ever in 2011 and return 18 starters. None more important than Aaron Rodgers little brother, Jordan Rodgers. With that said, Jordan seems to be making a name for himself as he has improved with each game over his career. There is no doubt that this game is a much bigger deal to Vanderbilt playing at home where they were extremely competitive in 2011, than it will be to South Carolina.
Friday - Boise State at Michigan State (ESPN, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Matchup Skinny
Boise State at Michigan State
Everyone's favorite underdog is back again, this time Boise State is opening the season against another BCS heavyweight. This is Boise State's final season as a non-BCS football school before they move to the Big East. But that's another argument for another day. The bad news is that the Broncos lost their quarterback (Kellen Moore) to the NFL, but all he did was win more NCAA games than any quarterback in history. The good news for the boys in blue is that new starter Joe Southwick should be able to step right in to Chris Petersen's system. In fact, both teams lost their starting quarterback from last year. While Michigan State doesn't have the system to plug a QB into and be as successful as quickly, they do have an offensive line that might be the best, and most experienced, in the Big 10 and that could prove to be a problem for Boise with RB LeVeon Bell in the backfield. Throw in a solid defensive line for Sparty, led by William Gholston. He loves taking down QB's and it might make for a long day in East Lansing. But before you write off Boise St again, they are 7-1 against BCS schools since 2006, which is very tough to overlook.
Saturday - Alabama vs. Michigan from Arlington, Texas (ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Matchup Skinny
Alabama vs. Michigan
The best the SEC has to offer against the best the Big 10 has to offer. We've seen this movie play out countless times over the last 10 years and it usually ends poorly for the Big 10. It's like going to see Titanic and hoping they don't hit the iceberg this time. Brady Hoke has done a great job turning Michigan around in his short time. Last year the Wolverines won 11 games, including a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech. But Hoke is not Nick Saban and Michigan just doesn't have speed, strength, depth or the talent that Alabama does. However, Michigan does have a few things going in their favor. Alabama did lose quite a bit of talent on the defensive side, and while they will simply replace them with even more talent, they are still young and this is the first week. For that reason and that reason only I think Big Blue QB Denard Robinson will actually be able to give a young, inexperienced Alabama defense some problems. If this game was being played Jan. 1 instead of Sept. 1, I think this would get really ugly for the Maze and Blue. But because it is being played in September I think this could be a more entertaining game. If Robinson has success early and often throwing down field on the young 'Bama secondary they could shock the world, if he doesn't this could ugly.
Other Games to Watch
Matchup Skinny
Washington State at Brigham Young
College football officially welcomes back "The Pirate" on Thursday night…and all that comes with him. When we last saw Mike Leach on the sidelines he was almost as quotable as Muhammad Ali and his QB's were putting up PlayStation like numbers. The person hasn't changed, but the team and the talent level has. Leach is inheriting a Washington State team that went 4-8 in 2011; however they were 9th overall in passing yards and 45th overall in points scored. Look for senior QB Jeff Tuel and explosive WR Marquess Wilson to have a big game and a big season under Mike Leach. As a two-touchdown underdog against a BYU team that won 10 games last year it might be a little much to expect a Week 1 victory for Leach, but you can at least count on being entertained both on the field, and definitely off.
Notre Dame vs. Navy
(Game Played at Dublin, Ireland) Notre Dame against Navy doesn't exactly make you want to jump out of bed first thing Saturday morning and turn on the TV, but the fact that they are playing in Ireland does make this game fairly significant. Even with suspended QB Tommy Rees, Notre Dame is still a 17-point favorite over a Navy squad that is without their top two offensive weapons from 2011, Kriss Proctor and Alexander Teich. Throw in an already suspect Navy defense (ranked 86th in 2011) and it really won't matter who is under center for Notre Dame (Everett Golson named starter). The only mystery in this game is what quarter Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will have his first coaching aneurism of 2012.
Ohio at Penn State
Another Week 1 game that will have national attention and not necessarily for the outcome or its significance on the 2012 college football landscape. For the first time in 46 years Penn State will take the field without Joe Paterno as its head football coach. The Bill O'Brien era starts off not only among turmoil off the field but without two of their best offensive players in running back Silas Redd and receiver Justin Brown who transferred after the NCAA ruling that allowed them to play immediately at a new school. PSU still remains a six-point favorite though against a formidable Ohio team that won 10 games last year. And the Bobcats return 14 starters, including quarterback Tyler Tettleton. Win or lose, the fact that the Nittany Lions are back playing football in Happy Valley is a good thing for every in and around that program.
Auburn vs. Clemson
(Game Played at Atlanta, Georgia) This is the second best the ACC has to offer behind Virginia Tech against the 7th or 8th best team the SEC has to offer and the line is only a field goal. Clemson's QB, Tajh Boyd is the key to this game. If he plays like he did to start 2011, then the Tigers should be fine. If he plays the way he ended 2011, they are in trouble. The bad news for Tajh is that he'll be without wide receiver Sammy Watkins (suspension) and his young offensive line is going up against arguably the best defensive end in the SEC, Corey Lemonier. That matchup will probably decide this game, and quite frankly, this is a must-win game for the ACC.

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